Neuroplasticity refers to the ability of our brains to learn and change in response to our experience and behaviour. It means that the more we do the more we think and the more our brains develop. The notion that we start life in a rapid phase of growth that declines at a point of maturity – that it’s all downhill as we reach our mid–twenties – is true only if we stop thinking and stretching ourselves to respond to the world around us. It is also the means by which many patients with brain damage are able to relearn and restore brain function.
When it comes to professional work, professional in the sense that one uses specialized intellectual skills to achieve a desired result, the key is to perform the work with commitment such that further growth occurs leading to the attainment of wisdom.
However, in many situations young people find themselves in employment with a personal need to study further. Unfortunately this comes at a price. The efforts and energy required to complete worthwhile study means that there is less energy and time to succeed at the paid-for role. Of course, there are situations where studying and working are essential, candidate attorneys, intern doctors, accounting clerks among them. For others though the student is at risk of delivering below par performance at work and developing a bad reputation.
So, what is the answer? The first is that a good track record of success is infinitely more marketable than fancy qualifications. There is a bit of a catch22 in that many jobs require the qualification to be employed in the first place. Also, to return to neuroplasticity, there is the message that we need to continue learning to maintain mental growth. This leads to the advice that undertaking study whilst working should only be done where the study and the role explicitly complement each other. Plus, at a certain stage further qualifications can make the ‘student’ appear a bit strange. A piece of advice which I was given, and I have often passed on, is that we study out of BOOKS in order to prepare for examination. Hence it makes sense to identify the right books and READ THEM.
The conclusion? Don’t allow studying to inhibit your career and do not go careering down the road to potential failure.